How the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza became a mistaken poster boy for Obamacare

It was the Twitter equivalent of blurbing a book using the one positive line from a review that actually trashed the book, the Washington correspondent says

Last week, Ryan Lizza, a Washington correspondent with the New Yorker, did what I and many other journalists have done in the past three weeks: He attempted to sign up for an account on, the federal government’s health insurance marketplace site.

And like me, at least, he initially thought he had succeeded. What follows is an instructive lesson in the speed of the news cycle and how incorrect information takes on a life of its own.

Here’s what happened:

He even tweeted screengrabs showing the steps of his “success.”

But within 40 minutes, he realized what the rest of us already had: His apparent success was illusive.


But at this point, it was too late. His initial tweet caught fire, being retweeted within the White House and even by Press Secretary Jay Carney.

Lizza kept tweeting his problems, but those tweets didn’t get noticed by federal officials.

When I flagged him online that he had become a “success story,” he said he shouldn’t be considered one.

Yesterday, I emailed Lizza and asked if he’d been back to the site. He said he hadn’t yet. But he had strong thoughts about the way in which his initial tweet was used. His email to me:

It seems that the web site launch was such a disaster that the White House was incredibly desperate to retweet any shards of good news.

I considered deleting that tweet because after two senior White House officials retweeted it, it took off and left the false impression that my conclusion was that the site worked, which isn’t the case.

It was the Twitter equivalent of blurbing a book using the one positive line from a review that actually trashed the book.

For what it’s worth, Lizza’s experience was similar to mine (but his was magnified). Here’s mine in a few tweets:

The moral of the story: Be careful with your first tweet. Even if you later amend it, it could take on a life of its own.




Deteriorating foodgrains storage situation — should it be privatised?

We have tonnes of foodgrains rotting in open, improperly covered stocks lying all over the place, with poor to horrible weather conditions, which are further subject to pilferage and offering a feast to the growing quantum of rodent population in the country

Almost 40 years ago, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) was established under the Food Corporation Act (FC Act) of 1964, and it came into being in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, in 1965. According to the FC Act, the main objectives of setting up this corporation were to ensure price support operations for safeguarding the farmers interest; help in distribution of foodgrains through public distribution system (PDS); maintain a satisfactory level of buffer stocks to ensure national food security; and to regulate the price to ensure supply of foodgrains to consumers at a reliable price.


The FCI takes the directives both from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and implements the policies dictated by them. Its annual subsidy is now in excess of $10 billion. It has no role in deciding the minimum support price (MSP), or in deciding on import or export of foodgrains. Its main responsibility covers two staple foodgrains, viz, wheat and rice.


A look at the FCI website ( gives a lot of details, but it is pertinent to note, just the following basic on how it has fared so far:


Storage capacity of foodgrain in the country in million tonnes (MT)


April 2005

April 2009

April 2013

















Covered & Plinth
















Grand Total





A close scrutiny of the table will show that, in spite of the backing of the government, FCI has made very little progress in "owning" its own godowns as they "progressed" from owning covered space of 12.91 MT in 2005 to just 13.03 MT in 2013 — after eight years! It has shown neither interest nor enthusiasm in taking the lead and responsibility in acquiring the land and constructing the warehouses to suit its needs. Whereas, it has "hired" space to keep 10.46 MT of foodgrains in 2005 and it has doubled the same to keep 20.99 MT in 2013.


Why did FCI decide to hire, instead of "owning" the space? The space could have been easily obtained and built to meet its needs. This needs to be investigated by a proper authority.


A further study reveals that the Private Warehousing Scheme was proposed only in 2010, with variable rentals that would be Rs4.16/quintal/month to a maximum of Rs5.21/quintal/month, and this would be applicable till 31st March 2013! Its plans for fresh hiring of godowns, presumably at a higher level than these, have not been announced so far.


In the meantime, we have tonnes of foodgrains rotting in open, improperly covered stocks lying all over the place, with poor to horrible weather conditions, which are further subject to pilferage and offering a feast to the growing quantum of rodent population in the country.


In fact, as of January 2013, 10.68 million tonnes of foodgrains have been found to be damaged/rotting etc in FCI godowns, enough to feed 600,000 people for 10 years. These figures are not accurate, but only an estimate, and can be much higher. FCI has enough storage space for keeping foodgrains covered, and yet, for reasons unknown, these have been found to be stored in open yards in many places, exposed to bad weather conditions.


In a recent press conference, attended by Jairam Ramesh, union rural development

minister and KV Thomas, the minister of state for consumer affairs, food and

public distribution), stated that the government proposes to spend Rs450 crores in building intermediate godowns at various block levels to facilitate efficient and smooth distribution of foodgrains through PDS, and to eliminate the scope for leakages. There has been an outcry that with the help of miscreants, foodgrains meant for distribution through PDS have found the way to the open market at the cost of aam aadmi. These smaller versions of godowns will be able to store 3,400 tonnes of foodgrains for three months emergency requirement. In this proposal, the state goverments are to provide the necessary landspace to construct the godowns while the Centre will bear the rest.


A bold step would be for the government to make an open offer for business houses to set up the most modern warehousing facilities. This will be on land to be provided by the government, on a long lease, say upto 30 years. The government may be allowed to charge a nominal interest. This will take the burden off the government, with the state providing the basic facilities in suitable locations. Such godowns need not necessarily cover just the foodgrains alone, but permission may also be granted to include other agricultural produce. This step will help in reducing the hold of middlemen in this area as well.


All these ideas are nice to hear and discuss, but what needs to be done is for the government to act speedily and bring about transparent procedures to be followed in such cases.


(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)



Dr Anantha K Ramdas

3 years ago

Thank you for your interesting comment. It would make great sense if RBI while issuing new Bank licenses make it obligatory for them to set up small branches in each town or agricultural centres as the first step.

Second would be to take over the
loans and advances given by the moneylenders, and by a directive given by the Government, have the original documents (like land, khatta papers etc) which have been taken as "security". Similarly, these banks must also take over the jewellery etc "pawned" by farmers for loans they have taken, and most probably paid several times the original amount and still "owes" the capital because of the enormous interest charged.

Then direct loans to be given to farmers to make their life livable! At the same time, Corporate houses be given the land, on long lease, to build the basic infrastructure needed to store agri produce for onward sale/distribution. Only this way, both the farmer and the consumer will get a better deal.

Right now, blood of these two people are sucked by middlemen, wholesalers and moneylenders.


3 years ago

The storage and transportation of Agriculture is beyond the means of the private sector as it also means reliable electricity availability and roads that are, really, roads. To the last mile. This is rendered even more economically unviable, with the very large number of "public Servants" who have to be bribed along the way. I had, as Long Range Planning Officer for SBI in 1983 (for the Seventh Five Year Plan), led a Delphi comprising such stalwarts as Dr. V.K.R.V.Rao and Shri V.N.V.Padmanabha Rao that had seen the crucial nature of moving agricultural produce to market as 70% of produce (at that time) withered on the fields. The economic impact of doing so was estimated at more than 300% of the then GDP! We had also seen that this was beyond the purview of the private sector and had asked for plan allocation towards infrastructure so that Bank Credit could be structured around it. Evidently there was not enough easy money for the Neta-Babus in the proposition to attract the Government!

Yerram Raju Behara

3 years ago

Privatisation is not a panacea for all the ills of the public sector vows. There are stocks in private storage houses but unavailable for the public use as they would release only when they get their usurious prices set in.In this particular case, investments in storage on scientific lines is the remedy and this we have been arguing for nearly two decades now. A government with no accountability and transparency and insisting on necessary budgetary commitments annually for such purpose is the right remedy.
Health, Sanitation, Education through privatization have made these out of reach for the poor and the middle class. Food grain management on better lines has been suggested by several consulting studies, notably that of ASCI which is gathering dust in the cupboards of the FCI and the concerned Ministry. It is time to turn the pages and remedy the situation.

High Mark appoints Steven Pinto as non-exec chairman

The credit bureau has appointed Mr Pinto as new non-executive chairman and also promoted Kalpana Pandey as its whole time director and chief executive

Troubled and cash-strapped credit bureau High Mark Credit Information Services Pvt Ltd (High Mark) has appointed Steven Pinto as its new non-executive chairman. High Mark also promoted Kalpana Pandey, its chief technology officer as whole-time director on its board and chief executive of the credit bureau. The decision of new appointments was taken in a board meeting on 18th October.


Following several complaints and reports by Moneylife, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was understood to have directed Prof Dr Anil Pandya to step down as executive chairman of High Mark. However, the website of High Mark still shows Prof Dr Pandya as its founder and executive chairman. Out mails sent to High Mark regarding Prof Dr Pandya remained unanswered till writing this report.


Several former executives of High Mark also filed complaints regarding the appointment of Prof Dr Pandya. They claimed while appointing Prof Dr Pandya, High Mark had violated Credit Information Companies Regulations (CICR) Act, 2005 (CICRA) as well as Companies Act.


While High Mark never appointed Prof Dr Pandya on a whole-time basis, he was able to continue teaching in the US as well, and he was working with the credit bureau on a part-time basis. As per the CICR Act, when a credit bureau appoints the chairman on a part-time basis, it then must have a managing director or full-time director to look after the management and affairs of the bureau.


High Mark, the only bureau started by individuals, has been under severe financial stress following the exit of several of its top managers and the failure of its rights issue. According to sources, the company has almost run through the Rs43 crore, it raised and was about to cease operations in a couple of months, unless it finds a new investor. Last year, the credit bureau was negotiating with Italy-based credit bureau CRIF SpA for a bailout. High Mark was offered Rs30 per share by CRIF, which owns 9.09% stake in the Indian credit bureau. However, RBI rejected the proposal because of its reservations about CRIF’s ownership pattern.


Experian Credit Information Company of India Pvt Ltd (Experian India), one of the four credit information companies (CICs) in India, was in talks with High Mark and reportedly had also completed the due diligence process. According to the sources, Experian has increased its bid to Rs27 from Rs25 to buy minimum 26% stake in troubled and cash-strapped High Mark. Reportedly there is not much progress on this front as well.


Ms Pandey holds an M Tech (Computer Science & Technology) and PG Diploma (Electronics & Communication) from IIT Roorkee. She has more than 21 years of experience in providing IT support to BFSI industry in various capacities.


You may also want to read...

Moneylife IMPACT: RBI asks High Mark exec chairman Anil Pandya to step down


CIBIL: Customers Continue To Suffer


CVC asks RBI for factual report about granting licence to High Mark


Experian in final stages to buy 26% stake in High Mark?


Credit Shopping: Is Experian buying 26% stake in High Mark?

Is High Mark Credit Info about to cease operations?

High Mark Credit: Four directors and chairman bagged 70% of the ESOPs

Has High Mark violated CICR Act while appointing an executive chairman on a part time basis?

High Mark fallout: Vepa Kamesam resigns from the Board


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